America’s Top Online Trainer


Contact me and tell me about yourself: height, weight, age, training history (type, intensity, length of time, frequency) a list of musculoskeletal injuries, general health concerns and other relevant issues. Also describe your short and long-term goals: increased strength, fat loss, athletic performance etc.

Here’s how it works!

Service: I am confident that I can help everybody reach their goals. You will email me photos, measurements and bodyweight also energy levels etc every other week and will evaluate and makes adjustments accordingly. This is the fun part – getting you really dialed into to succeed!

Photo’s: Only include photos if you are comfortable doing so but know that they provide me with valuable information about your static posture, muscle tone etc.

Program: Based on your information (and photo’s), I will write you a personalized Strength, Cardio and Fitness workout program that is custom designed to meet your specific goals. I can write the program from scratch or modify your existing program, whichever your prefer.

My three decades as a fitness professional and six years in the NFL has given me unique insight into what it takes to be the best; as we say in the NFL “be a professional in everything you do”.

Aside from optimizing athletic performance my expertise includes: general strength development, hypertrophy/bodybuilding, powerlifting, youth training, injury prevention, women-centric training, corrective exercise and importantly – fat loss.

Fee: Contact me for details of the different packages I offer that fit everyone’s need and budget.

 

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Physical Fitness Simplified

When I was a young athlete playing football, both at the University of Maryland and NFL years, I was fortune to have mentors that elevated the way I thought about strength/power development and conditioning. Happily those two men continue to be a part of my life. Frank Costello is still coaching Maryland track and field athletes and Fred “Dr. Squat” Hatfield PhD. is still quite active with the organization he founded, International Sports Sciences Association, rewriting some of his educational books. In conversation with these two men we frequently discuss physical fitness and the sad state of competence among today’s personal trainers.

I begin with the premise that personal trainers don’t want to suck – in fact the personality type of those that get into this profession is that of a helper of others. I believe the field is loaded with bright, earnest individuals that have the best intentions yet statical evidence and simple observation demonstrate that most training is at best ineffective and sometimes harmful. But why? In a word the current generation of personal trainers are overwhelmed by what they read online and further confused by their cohorts discordant views. In other words they are overloaded with ideas and undereducated of scientific fundamentals.

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As it happens I was there at the beginning, back when and where “certified” personal training was born. It was 1986 in Southern California and Fred Hatfield along with his business partner Sal Arria  were laying the groundwork, in fact founding the worlds first personal trainer certifying course, text book and exam that would become the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA). Amongst those on the original star-studded Board of Directors was Frank Costello. It’s import to understand a little of the history of these three men. All three were world class athletes. Fred Hatfield was an All-American college gymnast, National level Olympic weightlifter, “Mr. Connecticut” bodybuilder and a multiple time World record holder and World champion powerlifter. Frank Costello was a National champion and Pan American Games gold medalist in the high jump. He is the seventh human being to high jump seven feet. Sal Arria was a World class strength athlete and competitor who competed against the worlds best in powerlifing. As important as the athletic resume is to these founding fathers of fitness their educational chops are top-notch and therein lies the special sauce of their wisdom. Sal is a Doctor of Chiropractic with formal education in human anatomy and biomechanics. Dr. Hatfield earned his doctorate in philosophy from Temple University with competency examinations taken in sport psychology, motor learning and sport sociology. That my friends is what I call a serious combination of academics AND street cred!

A quater century later ISSA is one of the biggest personal trainer educational companies in the world and the only one that offers a college Associates degree. I can tell you that ISSA educated and certified personal trainers are excellent and make a difference in their clients lives. They aren’t the only good trainers but in a field with so much failure and despair they are leading the way. Here’s why. They  understand that physical fitness in based, is rooted in strength and power development. It is not rooted in jogging, biking or cycling and neither is grounded it in Pilates, yoga, Zumba or bodybuilding. Strength is the Master control. This truth stands in stark contrast to the ubiquitous myth that the key to fitness is increased cardiovascular capacity with a smattering of stretching. Yet an entire generation of trainers (mostly those that haven’t been educated by ISSA) have been misled by the internet “fitness guru’s” who have neither the academic nor athletic chops to KNOW what training methodologies are truly effective and transformative.

Squat, dead lift, press, sprint, carry, push and pull heavy objects then repeat. The basic tenants of GPP (general physical preparedness) have not changed and must be addressed, embraced first then later on meaningful strength development. Want to develop awesome cardiovascular capacity – the kind that will enable you to destroy your distance runner/triathlon friends – lift weights FASTER! Try squats for sets of 20 followed immediately by 20 burpees then 20 kettlebell swings, repeat for 4 rounds and time it. Train hard and heavy and a month then see if you can beat your time. Get strong and use your newfound strength to build massive muscular endurance.  Go get stronger and physically fitter today!

Principled Based Training II

In the first part of this article I identified the distinction between training principles and methodologies. It is critical to adopt a “principle-centric” position when designing workouts or long term programming, however the vardrsquatbigp3iety of methods, righteously available to the athlete development coach are infinite. The methods are the choices, the exercises, implements, variables and tools of the principled program.

Naturally the methods are a critical to getting a client/athlete from point A to point B but more than that, it’s were the coach gets to truly express them self. As an example, if the programming objective is to guide an athlete towards greater lower body power, then principle-centric thought will dictate (with few exceptions) that squats will a featured lift. Programming a squat is the principled decision, but what kind of squat? Back squats are the “King” of all lower body developers yet front squats may be a safer and more practical choice. But what about the value of one legged squats, pistols squats and rear foot elevated squats? After all we humans are bipeds and when we run we push off one leg at a time so doesn’t it only make sense that strengthen our legs independently? The point is that their is no one perfect training program but many effective strategies using a great variety of methodologies.

Think of the principles of programming is the objective part, the science, while methodology the subjective part, the art. Here’s a definition that I got from dictionary.com, “wisdom is the quality or state of being wise; knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment.” I typically use “wisdom is the place where wisdom meets experience” which gets straight to the point. I want  to encourage everyone, whether your a coach or training yourself to think wisely as you train. The availability of knowledge has never been greater and their is no excuse to not Pistol-Squat-2be taking advantage of it. Their are huge benefits to be gained with a few minutes of daily reading; for starters checkout http://bretcontreras.com/ and http://t-nation.com/ and the huge archive of articles and videos a http://crossfit.com.

I hope this short article helps you gain perspective and with some, confidence when it comes to optimized training. Just remember that principles are few and methods are many. Effective training is hard work so make it count and remember to have fun!

 

Principled Based Training

In the field of physical fitness and athlete development, debate over which methodologies are best is heathy and ubiquitous. For the athlete, coach or weekend warrior interested in the design of an effective training program, principles must first be identified.

“As to the methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Emerson

Increasingly, well meaning folks seeking to increase their level of fitness, improve their body composition or elevate their athleticism are confused as how to to best proceed. Most understand that the decades old myopic fallacy “cardio burns fat” and “lifting weights makes you bulky” has had a ruinous effect on our society. Countless hours, months and years have been squandered by adherents to these unfounded tenants. We are thirteen years into the 21st century people – and it is time that we all know the basic principles of physical fitness and the rudimentary concepts of how to  exercise in such a manner to elicit the desired response.


“Obey the principles without being bound by them.” ~ Bruce Lee

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The fundamentals of ones own physical fitness is a responsibility of the highest order, no different then knowing the principles of bodily and oral hygiene. When we hear the hygiene we reflexively think of getting our teeth cleaned that the dentist yet it meaning is more robust. Hygiene is defined as “a branch of  medical science that discusses the set of practices performed for the preservation of health.” Through the mid twentieth century American colleges offered courses on hygiene that included education of nutrition, sleep, exercise, disease and infection, accidents and drugs. How different our society would be if a single course like we’re thought to our children!

I looked at several definitions of “principles” and “methods” and I liked these.

Principles: “A fundamental, primary, or general law or truth from which others are derived.” Example: the principles of modern physics.

Methods: An arrangement of parts or steps to accomplish an end.” Example: random efforts that lack method.

To be clear, a principle, a “general law or truth” is not what your friends sisters roommate, who teaches Pillow Boxing three nights a week, says. Rather it is an act or in our case exercise that has been validated, proven if you will to elicit  a specific result.

The SAID principle; Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands, informs us that a specific or particular change will occur based on the exercise you choose. Of course I’m  assuming that the variables are accounted for i.e. volume, intensity, frequency etc. So choosing the correct exercises – I’m talking in a very general sense here – is critical to getting the desired result.

Once one engages and acts in a principle based exercise program, then and only then are methods considered. To put a fine point on it the methods one chooses are simply the details of a principled based program. In the next part of this series of articles I will discuss the principles necessary to succeed – regardless of your fitness or athletic development goals.

If you found this blog post informative or at least interesting then please pass it on to friends, family, coworkers anyone you think can benefit from my knowledge and experience. I’m in the business of personal coaching and love a challenge My aim is to help as many people as possible get fit and healthy and do it in a safe and productive way. My goal is to make fitness and athletic development should be fun – it should not a mystery!

The Thinking Behind Barefoot Training

There is much confusion about the increasingly popular trend of working out (lifting and running) in Vibrams, Nike Free’s or barefoot. This excellent article is based in science yet easy to read. PK

Barefoot Training Part I: Fitness Fad or Great Training Method?

· by Mike T Nelson

barefoot pyramid training

Men running in a chariot race at the Piha Surf Club carnival (circa 1938)

My buddy Sean Casey is back and has a great write up for all of you on barefoot training!  You know how much I love my vibrams and flat “old school” shoes.  If you missed out, check out the post below for a primer

Barefoot Training: Vibram Five Fingers and the Evils of Strength Sucking Shoes

Take it away Sean!

Quick Hit Summary: Barefoot Training by Sean Casey

The newest training craze in the fitness world today is barefoot or pseudo barefoot (Vibram FiveFingers®, Nike Frees®)training. Barefoot training forces athletes to land on the balls of their feet when striking the ground. In contrast, individuals tend to strike the ground with their heels while wearing shoes. Research indicates that striking the ground with the balls of your feet vs. heels, reduces initial impact as well as the load felt by your knees and hip. Thus, it may be effective at preventing osteoarthritis of these joints. In addition, barefoot training strengthens the intrinsic muscles of the foot, possibly preventing injuries such as plantar fasciitis. Although barefoot training appears to have many benefits, I’m obligated to mention that long term studies are still required to support these initial findings. That being said, I strongly encourage you to work barefoot training into your exercise routine. Kick off your shoes while resistance training, moving about the house, etc. However, for endurance runners, I caution you against taking it to fast, as this may cause injury. Please refer to the advice of Harvard researcher, Dr. Daniel E. Lieberman, when implementing barefoot or pseudo barefoot training into your routine.

Barefoot Training

Every few years, a new fad seems to take hold in the fitness community. A few years back, unstable surface training was the rage. {Check out my interview with Christian Carter for my thoughts on the topic}. The “next” big thing I see working its way into the fitness industry is barefoot training. Although I refer to it as “next”, barefoot training has actually been around for awhile. If you look at vintage photos of Arnold Schwarzenegger & friends, you’ll notice that they often trained barefoot. Additionally, elite training centers, such as Athlete’s Performance, have long had their athletes go barefoot while completing lower body exercises (squats, deadlift variations, etc).

The rising popularity of barefoot training is not restricted to the resistance training community. It has recently gained popularity in the running community thanks to strong endorsements from Christopher McDougall, author of Born to Run and Harvard researcher, Dr. Daniel E. Lieberman. In response, shoe companies have responded by making pseudo barefoot shoes such as Vibram FiveFinger® and Nike® Frees.

In my experience, proponents of barefoot training, especially endurance athletes (sorry if this generalization offends anyone), speak of it in an almost holistic/mystical sense. They love the organic, natural feel of barefoot training. Furthermore they claim that wearing modern shoes, with little flexibility (ie- can’t twist it along long axis and unable to flex it at multiple locations), may actually weaken our foot muscles and increase the risk of injury.

Is the above true? Should we ditch our traditional gym shoes and go barefoot? Before we make this decision, let’s examine the evidence supporting and/or refuting barefoot training.

The Biomechanics of Barefoot vs. Shod (shoe) running

As one would naturally expect, footwear greatly influences the way we move. Clear distinctions in foot orientation, upon striking the ground, and stride length are present between conditions. When wearing shods (shoes), one tends to takes long strides and land on their heels (ie— rear foot strike (RFS)1. In contrast, when barefoot walking2 or running4, one’s strides are shorter (~6%4) and are characterized by either mid- or front-foot strikes (MFS or FFS).

 

(editor’s note: figure3 is not showing up and working on it now–thanks)

Figure 3. As seen in the top picture, front foot strikes, which occurs while walking/running barefoot, leads to a gradual rise in force upon striking the ground. Walking barefoot also leads shorter, but faster strides vs. wearing shoes. As seen in the bottom picture, rear foot strikes, which occur while wearing shoes, are characterized by a rapid spike in impact forces. Please note that this figure does not represent the images of any one specific study. Rather, it’s a general trend seen in most studies on this subject.

Differences in stride length and foot strike position differ for 1 reason. Namely, RFS  cause large transient impact forces that must be absorbed either by the body (ie- the heel) or ones shoes. Thus, rather than painfully absorbing the impact through ones heels, barefoot runners generally employ MFS or FFS running strategies. In doing so, large spikes in pressure are minimized as the impact force is more evenly distributed over the foot (See Figure 3). In a study completed by Divert et al., researchers had 31 participants, with no previous barefoot running experience, complete both shod and un-shod running trials. Final results indicated that running barefoot decreased initial impact force by 13% vs. that observed while wearing shoes3. In a somewhat similarly designed study, Squadrone & Gallozzi, found that running barefoot reduced initial impact forces by 5% vs. shod running in 8 experienced barefoot endurance athletes4.

Right now you’re probably thinking… “OK, I understand why we don’t want to land on our heels if we are barefoot. However, rear- foot striking is not painful if we have shoes on. Thus, does it really make a difference if we wear shoes or go barefoot?”

Barefoot vs. Shod on Performance variables.

Movement Efficiency during Running

As aforementioned, one has a longer stride when running in shoes vs. barefoot due to how their foot strikes the ground (ie- RFS vs. FFS). To the naïve individual, RFS sound like a good thing… If one can take longer strides, he/she should be able to run faster, right?!? This makes sense assuming that we can maintain stride frequency. However, when running at comfortable endurance speeds (7-8 mph), longer strides are associated with decreased stride frequency134. In other words, when running barefoot, we increase the rate at which we take strides. Thus, at endurance running speeds, the effects appear to cancel each other out. In competitions that involve speed (ie- 100 meter sprints), FFS are actually the preferred method of running. This about it… Have you ever seen a sprinter RFS? Of course not! By FFS, they are able to take advantage of the elastic energy found in connective tissue such as the Achilles tendon to propel them down the track. This boost is in addition to the force produced by muscles.

As noted above, FFS are the preferred method of sprinting because it allows you to tap into your elastic energy. By taking advantage of this, our ability to move is obviously improved. If this improved movement efficiency carries over to endurance running is debated. In the previously mentioned study conducted by Squadrone & Gallozzi, each barefoot trained athlete completed three 6 minute treadmill runs (set at a constant ~7.5 mph) under the following conditions:

  • Barefoot
  • Pseudo Barefoot (Vibram FiveFingers® Classic model)
  • Running Shoes

Movement efficiency was measured via VO2 (oxygen consumption). For those not familiar with VO2, it’s a way to measure the amount of energy used to perform a given physical feat. A higher VO2 equates to greater energy expenditure when performing a given task. Thus, if running the same distance, at the same speed, the condition that burns more energy is less efficient. (If trouble grasping this concept, think of 2 cars of the same make & model; the one that burns less fuel to perform a given task is the one that you want in your garage). Final results of the study indicated the following….Despite running the same distance, at the same speed, runners had a significantly lower VO2 (2.8%) while wearing Vibrams in comparison to running shoes4. Although a reduced VO2 was measured in the barefoot condition (1.3%), it was not significantly different from the shod conditions.

Resistance Training

To my knowledge, the effects of resistance training in shod vs. barefoot conditions have not directly been studied. However, indirect evidence does support the use of barefoot training to strengthen the intrinsic muscles of your foot. In a study completed by Robbins & Hanna, 17 athletes increased barefoot activity (1+ hrs/day) or continued with their normal footwear patterns for 4 months7. At the conclusion of the study, it was found that those who increased barefoot activity had stronger, more “active” intrinsic foot muscles. This was not observed in the group that did not increase barefoot activity. Robbins and Hanna also hypothesize that by strengthening these intrinsic muscles, issues such as plantar fasciitis could be avoided. Although I have a few methodological issues with the study, I do agree with the final analysis—> increased barefoot activity strengthens the muscles of the feet, improving overall foot health. In turn, healthy feet equals healthy movement.

Working barefoot into your program

Many advantages appear to be present with barefoot training. I’d recommend switching over to barefoot resistance training as soon as you’re comfortable (Just don’t drop any weights… Speaking from experience, dropping a weighted implement onto your bare foot has a little more of an OUCH factor to it!). Also, for around the house type stuff, or going to the store type activities, kick off you shoes entirely or go pseudo-barefoot (ie- Vibram FiveFingers ® Nike Frees ®, etc). As my friend Mike Nelson, PhD candidate, says:

“…the foot has many moving parts and it should be trained in many directions. If we only moved it up and down, there would be simple hinge joint there…Smarter the shoe, dumber the foot. Messed up feet = messed up hips due to the arthrokinetic reflex which roughly translated is code for jammed joints equal muscular weakness. (Editor’s note – when he says smart shoes, he’s referring ones to lots of supports, straps, rigid design, etc) [12]”.

If you’re interested working barefoot or pseudo-barefoot training into your endurance exercise program, I wouldn’t recommend quitting “cold turkey” with respect to your training shoes. Doing so would actually increase your risk of injury as you’d be putting demands on your body that it’s never experienced. For example, one’s calf and Achilles tendon face much greater stresses when barefoot training (due to FFS/MFS vs. RFS that occurs in shoes). In addition, after wearing shoes for our entire lives, our feet are actually misshaped. According to research conducted by K. D’Aou et al., wearing shoes appears to decrease both the length and width of our feet9. Thus, your lower body won’t be able to handle the physical demands of barefoot training as well as someone who grew up not wearing shoes. I’m not trying to discourage you from running barefoot, I just want to emphasize that you should BE SMART & TAKE IT SLOW!

With respect to working barefoot training into your endurance training program, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND taking the advice of Harvard researcher, Dr. Daniel E. Lieberman, lead investigator of the famous barefoot study that most advocates rally around in support of the movement10.

CLICK HERE FOR DR. LIEBERMAN’s RECOMMENDATIONS/TIPS.

Long Term Studies

Short term studies seem to support the idea that barefoot training supports healthy movement. However, I feel obligated to mention that no scientific studies to date have shown that long term barefoot training is better/worse than wearing normal training shoes. More research is still required in this area.

Bottom Line

Although more research still is required in this area, it appears that adding barefoot exercise into your training arsenal may be beneficial for both power and endurance athletes alike. Research indicates that it reduces initial impact at foot strike while simultaneously strengthening the intrinsic muscles of ones foot. In turn, this may decrease the risk of developing painful foot conditions such as plantar fasciitis. I encourage everyone to slip the shoes off while doing “around the house” type of jobs and while lifting weights. However, don’t ditch your running shoes overnight. Heed the advice of Harvard researcher, Dr. Daniel E. Lieberman, and SLOWLY work them into your training program. If you have increased foot pain, STOP!

Stay tuned for Part II of this article where we examine the relationship between barefoot exercise, shoes, specialized inserts and the risk of injury.

Please know that I have no financial or other interest in any of the specific name brand shoes that I mentioned during this article.

References

1 De Wit B, De Clercq D, Aerts P. Biomechanical analysis of the stance phase during barefoot and shod running. J Biomech. 2000 Mar;33(3):269-78.

2 Wolf S, Simon J, Patikas D, Schuster W, Armbrust P, Döderlein L. Foot motion in children shoes: a comparison of barefoot walking with shod walking in conventional and flexible shoes. Gait Posture. 2008 Jan;27(1):51-9. Epub 2007 Mar 13.

3 Divert C, Mornieux G, Baur H, Mayer F, Belli A. Mechanical comparison of barefoot and shod running. Int J Sports Med. 2005 Sep;26(7):593-8.

4 Squadrone R, Gallozzi C. Biomechanical and physiological comparison of barefoot and two shod conditions in experienced barefoot runners. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2009 Mar;49(1):6-13.

5 Divert C, Mornieux G, Freychat P, Baly L, Mayer F, Belli A. Barefoot-shod running differences: shoe or mass effect? Int J Sports Med. 2008 Jun;29(6):512-8. Epub 2007 Nov 16.

6 Jungers WL. Biomechanics: Barefoot running strikes back. Nature. 2010 Jan 28;463(7280):433-4.

7 Robbins SE, Hanna AM. Running-related injury prevention through barefoot adaptations. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1987 Apr;19(2):148-56.

8 Accessed on June 10, 2010 from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/666_is_money/4083813727/. Creative License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en.

9 K. D’Aou, T.C. Patakyc, D. De Clercqd and P.The effects of habitual footwear use: foot shape and function in native barefoot walkers. Aerts. Footwear Science. Vol. 1, No. 2, June 2009, 81–94.

10 Lieberman DE, Venkadesan M, Werbel WA, Daoud AI, D’Andrea S, Davis IS, Mang’eni RO, Pitsiladis Y. Foot strike patterns and collision forces in habitually barefoot versus shod runners. Nature. 2010 Jan 28;463(7280):531-5.

11 Nelson, Mike T. RE: VFF and Followups. Message to Sean Casey. June 9, 2010. Email.

About the Author:

Sean Casey is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison with degrees in both Nutritional Science-Dietetics and Kinesiology-Exercise Physiology. Sean graduated academically as one of the top students in both the Nutritional Science and Kinesiology departments.
Field Experience: During college, Sean was active with the UW-Badgers Strength and Conditioning Department. He has also spent time at the International Performance Institute in Bradenton, FL where he worked with the USA U-18 National Men’s Soccer team. More currently, he has worked with multiple NFL 1st round NFL draft picks and All-Pro NFL athletes at the Athletes Performance in Tempe, AZ. His nutrition consultation services are avalable by clicking on the Strength Sport Consultation tab.  Be sure to read his awesome blog at  http://www.caseperformance.com/

 

Training Priorities And Program Design

Whether you are a Fitness Professional or simply trying to optimize your own workouts, deciding what to do at the gym/track/park is a complex task that the overwhelming majority of people fail at. The following post by Patrick Ward offers a glimpse into what Top-Flight professionals consider in designing and implementing programs for their athletes – from Pro’s to Joe’s. PK

Fitting It All In – Training Priorities

by Patrick Ward

In the past I have discussed the importance of being flexible with regard to your training program and not being so rigid with regard to what is written on paper.  This is especially true when talking about backing off of the training intensity on a given training day if an individual is physically not preparedto do the assigned work.

In talking with a number of coaches over the past few weeks a common topic that has come up has been fitting it all it. There are many things that are considered in a training program:

  • Warm up
  • Mobility/Flexibility
  • Corrective exercise
  • Medicine ball throws
  • Sprints
  • Power Training (jumps, plyos, olympic lifts, etc)
  • Strength training
  • Energy system development
  • Etc

With so many qualities that need to be trained it is easy to see why it may be difficult to fit everything into the hour (or however long you have with your athletes).  And then there is the question of “why would you want to fit everything into an hour?”

It isn’t that this can’t be done or that I think it is bad.  In fact, there are times when this may be the best way to go.  However, I tend to run into the problem with this sort of programming where my training session end up looking a little schizophrenic.  With so many qualities to try and cram into one session, I find it hard to prioritize anything or take the time to focus on something more specifically.  Additionally, there are often times where things don’t work out as planned – people show up late to training, practice was harder than usual, there was a competition the day before, etc.  Thus, it is more beneficial (in my opinion anyway) to prioritize your training sessions as much as possible.

Rather than trying to do everything, look at the training session and determine what one or two things on the sheet are THE MOST IMPORTANT things to focus on for that day.  Make those things the priority.  Warm up and get right to work on those qualities.   Instead of lumping everything together on one day, prioritize one or two qualities to focus on and then focus on different qualities the next training day.

This same sort of mentality can be taken with soft tissue therapy as well.  Instead of trying to  improve everything, look at your assessment and determine what one or two things are the most important things to focus on that day.

With so many components to take into consideration in a training program, it is important not to lose sight of what the main goal or objective is for the day.  Attack that goal and really try and develop it.

How Athletes Rock Their Abs!

Crunch’s are an over rated exercise that may be in fact be damaging your lumbar spine. Conversely ab wheel roll-outs are outstanding for both developing high performance athletic strength and a rocked-up look. The ‘standing’ technique shown in the video is advanced, so if this exercise is new to you, begin on your knees. The fact that this athlete is performing from a standing position and wearing a 80 pound weighted vest demonstrates an elite level of core strength. PK

What I Think …

“Only the curious will learn and only the resolute overcome the obstacles to learning. The quest quotient has always excited me more than the intelligence quotient.” ~Eugene S. Wilson
Strength. Strength of Mind, Body and Soul. I see a society that has become a spectator, rather than a participant in the development of these fundamental area’s of Personal Excellence. Today I am sharing a video that will inspire you (I sincerely hope) to dig deep and commit yourself to your training. Note that this video does not feature an NFL or Olympic athlete but rather a young woman whose strength, technique and obvious commitment to personal excellence is obvious. Thanks to Bret Contreras for posting this video of  Kellie Davis this on his outstanding Blog.

What I think …

“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” ~Richard Steele, Tatler, 1710

I’m good about keeping clutter in my domicile, car and life to a minimum, yet when it comes to what I read – which is considerable – I’m a pack-rat. I love books and try to read a book a week which makes my need for bookshelves grow (and makes me happy). As great as books are, the fastest way to chug down information is by reading articles, research paper etc. which I do daily and then save the good ones in my computer. Here is an article I saved some time ago that is a MUST READ for all who have yet to embrace resistance training. Its entitled Top 10 Reasons Heavy Weights Don’t Bulk Up the Female Athlete, which holds true for all females even if they are simply looking to reduce body fat, loose inches or ‘tone up’ aka have a firmer, denser body and feel better. No other exercise modality is as powerful in developing a strong,healthy, sleek, athletically capable and esthetically pleasing body. Pass it on to those whom you care about and  much respect to the authors Tim Kontos, David Adamson, and Sarah Walls – well done.

Top 10 Reasons Heavy Weights Don’t Bulk Up the Female

David Adamson and I were driving to the IPA Nationals this past weekend talking training (yeah we’re pretty passionate about what we do) when the subject of training women with heavy weights came up. I’m in my ninth year at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) as the head strength and conditioning coach, and David has been in strength and conditioning for three years. This is a subject we deal with every year regardless of how much training information is available to the public.

The best way to get information is to go to the source. So we asked Sarah Walls, another strength and conditioning coach at VCU. Sarah is also a writer for Muscle and Fitness Hers, a former figure competitor, and a women’s tri-fitness competitor—not to mention a strong female athlete who isn’t bulked up. Therefore, she has a great perspective on the subject.

We, being a good team, put our heads together to find a way to combat this never-ending dilemma. Our way of doing that is through education. And, only one answer to a question is never enough. If you know your job well, then you know that there is more than one way to skin a cat. So we came up with the following list:

  1. Women do not have nearly as much testosterone as men. In fact, according to Bill Kreamer in Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, women have about 15 to 20 times less testosterone than men. Testosterone is the reason men are men and women are women. After men hit puberty, they grow facial hair, their voice deepens, and they develop muscle mass. Because men have more testosterone, they are much more equipped to gain muscle. Because women do not have very much testosterone in their bodies, they will never be able to get as big as men.
  2. The perception that women will bulk up when they begin a strength training program comes from the chemically altered women on the covers of bodybuilding magazines. These “grocery stand models” are most likely pumped full of some extra juice. This is why they look like men. If you take the missing link that separates men from women and add it back in, what do you have? A man!
  3. For women, toning is what happens when the muscle is developed through training. This is essentially bodybuilding without testosterone. Since the testosterone is not present in sufficient amounts, the muscle will develop, but it won’t gain a large amount of mass.  The “toned” appearance comes from removing the fat that is covering a well-developed muscle.
  4. Muscle bulk comes from a high volume of work. The repetition range that most women would prefer to do (8–20 reps) promotes hypertrophy (muscle growth). For example, a bodybuilding program will have three exercises per body part. For the chest, they will do flat bench for three sets of 12, incline for three sets of 12, and decline bench for three sets of 12. This adds up to 108 total repetitions. A program geared towards strength will have one exercise for the chest—flat bench for six sets of three with progressively heavier weight. This equals 18 total repetitions. High volume (108 reps) causes considerable muscle damage, which in turn, results in hypertrophy. The considerably lower volume (18 reps) will build more strength and cause minimal bulking.
  5. Heavy weights will promote strength not size. This has been proven time and time again. When lifting weights over 85 percent, the primary stress imposed upon the body is placed on the nervous system, not on the muscles. Therefore, strength will improve by a neurological effect while not increasing the size of the muscles.

And, according to Zatsiorsky and Kreamer in Science and Practice of Strength Training, women need to train with heavy weights not only to strengthen the muscles but also to cause positive adaptations in the bones and connective tissues.

6. Bulking up is not an overnight process. Many women think they will start lifting   weights, wake up one morning, and say “Holy sh__! I’m huge!” This doesn’t happen.   The men that you see who have more muscle than the average person have worked hard for a long time (years) to get that way. If you bulk up overnight, contact us because we want to do what you’re doing.

7. What the personal trainer is prescribing is not working. Many female athletes come into a new program and say they want to do body weight step-ups, body weight lunges,   and leg extensions because it’s what their personal trainer back home had them do. However, many of these girls need to look in a mirror and have a reality check because   their trainer’s so-called magical toning exercises are not working. Trainers will hand out easy workouts and tell people they work because they know that if they make the program too hard the client will complain. And, if the client is complaining, there’s a   good chance the trainer might lose that client (a client to a trainer equals money).

8. Bulking up is calorie dependant. This means if you eat more than you are burning, you will gain weight. If you eat less than you are burning, you will lose weight. Unfortunately, most female athletes perceive any weight gain as “bulking up” and do not give attention to the fact that they are simply getting fatter. As Todd Hamer, a strength and conditioning coach at George Mason University said, “Squats don’t bulk you up. It’s the ten beers a night that bulk you up.” This cannot be emphasized enough.

If you’re a female athlete and training with heavy weights (or not), you need to watch   what you eat. Let’s be real—the main concern that female athletes have when coming to   their coach about gaining weight is not their performance but aesthetics. If you choose to ignore this fact as a coach, you will lose your athletes!

9. The freshman 15 is not caused by strength training. It is physiologically impossible to gain 15 lbs of muscle in only a few weeks unless you are on performance enhancing   drugs. Yes the freshman 15 can come on in only a few weeks. This becomes more   complex when an athlete comes to a new school, starts a new training program, and also   has a considerable change in her diet (i.e. only eating one or two times per day in addition   to adding 6–8 beers per evening for 2–4 evenings per week). They gain fat weight, get   slower, and then blame the strength program. Of course, strength training being the   underlying cause is the only reasonable answer for weight gain. The fact that two meals per day has slowed the athlete’s metabolism down to almost zero and then the multiple beers added on top of that couldn’t have anything to do with weight gain…it must be the   lifting.

10.  Most of the so-called experts are only experts on how to sound like they know what they are talking about. The people who “educate” female athletes on training and   nutrition have no idea what they’re talking about. Let’s face it—how many people do you know who claim to “know a thing or two about lifting and nutrition?” Now, how many   people do you know who actually know what they’re talking about, have lived the life,   dieted down to make a weight class requirement, or got on stage at single digit body fat?   Invariably, these so-called experts are also the people who blame their gut on poor genetics.

These so-called experts are the reason you see so many women doing sets of 10 with a   weight they could do 20 or 30 times. They are being told by the experts that this is what it takes to “tone” the muscles. Instead, they are only wasting their time doing an exercise with a weight that is making no contribution to the fitness levels or the development of   the muscle.

In case you haven’t figured it out by this point in the article, what is currently being done in fitness clubs to help female athletes tone their bodies is not working. It’s not helping these women get toned, and it is definitely not helping improve athletic performance. Maybe it’s time for a change. Contrary to the ineffective light weights currently being used, heavy weights offer many benefits for women including improved body composition, stronger muscles, decreased injury rate, and stronger bones (which helps prevent osteoporosis). Let’s try lifting some heavy weights and controlling our diet and watch this logical, science-based solution make the difference we’ve been looking for.

Tim Kontos is in his ninth year as the strength and conditioning coach for Virginia Commonwealth University athletes. A certified strength and conditioning specialist with the National Strength and Conditioning Association, Kontos designs, implements, and supervises all strength, speed, and agility programs for all the VCU athletic programs.

David Adamson is in his second year as an assistant strength and conditioning coach for VCU.  He is directly responsible for program design and implementation for men’s and women’s track and field, women’s cross country, and field hockey. Prior to coming to VCU, David worked at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, Arizona State University, and Winona State University.  In 2003, he graduated from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, and in 2006, he received his masters in sport leadership from VCU.

Sarah Walls is in her first year with the Rams’ strength and conditioning staff as a graduate assistant working with men’s and women’s soccer, golf, and men’s cross-country. Graduating magna cum laude, she earned a bachelor’s of science degree from Virginia Tech in 2003. Since graduation, she has spent time working at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia in the strength department. While there, Sarah worked with women’s tennis, men’s tennis, men’s volleyball, and men’s soccer. At the same time, she also worked for LifeTime Fitness and helped manage and develop innovative training programs. In addition, she is a contributing writer for the magazine, Muscle and Fitness HERS.